The DA in Limpopo filed a complaint with the Legal Practice Council (LPC) on Monday against the law firms of two prominent Polokwane lawyers – Floyd Legodi and Tumi Mokwena.
The case flows from a damning forensic report on the siphoning off of millions of rand from the now DA-run Modimolle-Mokgoophong Municipality. The DA wrestled the municipality from the ANC following the 2016 local government elections.
The forensic investigation, commissioned by the National Treasury after a request by the DA, implicated Legodi Attorneys which is a partner of Tumi Mokwena Inc. Both law firms share the same address in Polokwane.
The investigation report showed that Legodi Attorneys was irregularly appointed on the panel of service providers and submitted suspicious invoices for payment by the municipality for “legal matters”.
It was found that the law firm was irregularly paid more than R9.3m between June 2017 and May 2018.
The report stated: “There is no proof that Legodi Attorneys was appointed through a council resolution. Its appointment was irregular in that no procurement process was followed by the municipality.”
The report further recommended that a criminal case be registered against Legodi Attorneys for possible fraud “in that they submitted suspicious invoices and had failed to explain when given a chance to do so”.
DA provincial leader Jacques Smalle said the LPC was requested to investigate the two law firms for violating the attorney’s code of conduct.
He added the party had also requested it to investigate advocates SDK Motsiri and Mandala Matlaba who were in turn instructed by the two law firms to handle “legal matters” for the municipality.
In some instances, the municipality lost some court cases without legal representation, but was sent invoices amounting to huge amounts of money.
“It is evident that Legodi and Mokwena’s conduct as detailed in the report amounts to improper, unprofessional and unethical conduct in that there is a clear violation of point 18.7 of the code of conduct for legal practitioners…” Smalle said.
Legodi, who is the director of Legodi Attorneys, has since denied any wrongdoing.
This at a time when Mokwena, for whom Legodi is the attorney of record, was recently ordered by the Limpopo High Court to open his accounting books for inspection by the Law Society of the Northern Provinces.
His application to appeal the case was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. The case concerns his alleged embezzlement of R38.5m meant for the beneficiaries of the Zebediela Citrus Estate in Limpopo.
Mokwena’s law firm is also fighting possible liquidation after businessman Sthembiso Bethuel Bosch brought an application in the Limpopo High Court.
The case arises from Mokwena’s apparent failure to return R1.5m that was deposited into his trust account to legally facilitate the purchase of a property, which did not materialise.
Mokwena then transferred the money to another of his accounts.
The applicant’s court papered shows that a settlement agreement, which was later made an order of the court, was reached but was breached by Mokwena.
A warrant of execution was also issued against Mokwena but returned with a nulla bona report. This meant Mokwena had no attachable assets to satisfy the judgment debt.
The case was supposed to have been heard in the Limpopo High Court on October 24, 2019. It was postponed due to Mokwena filing opposing papers just 20 minutes before the hearing.
He said in court papers that his attorney of record, Legodi, was in bereavement, hence the late filing.
But the applicant’s attorneys last Friday filed papers, arguing that the court should not grant Mokwena condonation for the late filing of his papers. They said Mokwena was a senior attorney and well aware of the court processes and procedures.
Among others, they argued that glaringly absent was any explanation as to why he could not “lift his stumps” and file a document as simple as the notice to oppose.
“Legodi’s bereavement happened on August 12, 2019 – some two-and-a-half months prior to the hearing of the application.”